It made its name by terrorising Earth at the end of the Late Cretaceous, but Tyrannosaurus rex had a sensitive side too, researchers have found.
The fearsome carnivore, which stood 20 feet tall and ripped its prey to shreds with dagger-like teeth, had a snout as sensitive to touch as human fingertips, say scientists.
T rex and other tyrannosaurs would have used their tactile noses to explore their surroundings, build nests, and carefully pick up fragile eggs and baby offspring.
But the snout is thought to have served another purpose. Experts believe that males and females rubbed their sensitive faces together in a prehistoric form of foreplay.
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the US authors describe how the sensitive skin may have proved crucial to the dinosaur's mating success. "In courtship, tyrannosaurids might have rubbed their sensitive faces together as a vital part of pre-copulatory play," they explain.
The findings follow the discovery of a new member of the tyrannosaur family called Daspletosaurus horneri in Montana, US.
D horneri lived before T rex about 74m years ago and was three-quarters the size of its later cousin, with a body length of nine metres (29.5ft).
Also at Sky News
Journal article: A new tyrannosaur with evidence for anagenesis and crocodile-like facial sensory system (doi:10.1038/srep44942)
[Updated 2017-04-02 to add journal reference and additional details from story. --martyb]